By Nate Tenopir, Sports Editor
Players and coaches involved in the sport of hockey talk often about how small and close-knit the hockey world is. That connection was evident on Sunday Aug. 28 when the UNO hockey community came together to support one of its own.
A dozen former Maverick players joined nine NHL players and local media members to skate in a benefit hockey game to fight Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Rob Facca, who played for UNO’s first-ever hockey team in 1997, has a son who was diagnosed with Duchenne late last year.
Duchenne, a form of muscular dystrophy, affects 1 in 3,500 kids every year. The disease can eventually cause difficulty walking, breathing and, in some cases, even death.
Shortly after the diagnosis, David Brisson, the Mavs third all-time leading scorer, and Mike Kemp, the program’s head coach for 12 seasons, began a conversation about what they could do to help. Their efforts produced a roster full of talent and a grandstand full of fans that came out to support the cause.
“I looked up there and I think it was great. It’s just a testament that people wanna help people,” Facca said. “The hockey community is small and tight and I think it was just great. I was more overwhelmed than anything.”
Along with Brisson and Facca, some of the former Mavs included current NHL players Dan Ellis, Jed Ortmeyer and Scott Parse. The six other NHL players that participated were Brandon Prust (New York Rangers), Mark Olver (Colorado Avalanche), Warren Peters (Minnesota Wild), Ryan Potulny (Washington Capitals), Erik Gustafsson (Philadelphia Flyers) and Jason Williams (Pittsburgh Penguins).
The game was divided into two 25-minute halves with a running clock. Through the first period up to the end of the intermission, fans were allowed to take part in a silent auction.
Items up for bid included signed hockey sweaters, tickets to a Pittsburgh Penguins versus L.A. Kings preseason game in Kansas City and special offers from local merchants. The game was played at the Moylan Ice Plex at Tranquility Park near 120th and Fort streets.
The players were split into a red team and white team with the red eventually winning by a score of 9-4. Granted, there was a winner but the play on the ice was more about putting on a good show and having a good time.
The few penalties that were called were each enforced with a penalty shot. Near the end of the second half, the Penguins’ Williams had tossed his stick to try and break up an open shot at his net.
The referee’s arm went up and the white team was awarded a penalty shot. During the shot, Williams again tossed his stick across the ice causing both benches and the crowd to respond with a large burst of laughter.
Dan Ellis was the winning goaltender stopping two penalty shots and about three or four other breakaways. Ellis was more than happy to participate in the fundraiser saying that it’s important to do anything you can to support good friends.
“To bring this many people in the community down to support the cause that Louie came down with…it’s a tough battle that he’s got going for him,” Ellis said. “But to have support like this it will go a long way in helping to find a cure, raise funds for research and also just lift Louie’s spirits and show how many people care about him.”
Ellis said that once he was invited to support the cause he got to work on getting former Mavs still in the area to come out and show their support. Many of them still play together in the Beer and Pretzel Hockey League that forms every summer at the Moylan Ice Plex.
They’re all hoping to make the benefit game a yearly occurrence to help Louie Facca and find a cure for the disease. For now though, Facca and his wife Nikki just try to focus on Louie and taking everything day-by-day.
Because Louie was just diagnosed within the last year, he has not yet started to suffer any of the effects of Duchenne. But Rob and Nikki are focused on finding a cure rather than any treatment Louie may require.
Anyone interested in donating to help find a cure can contact Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy on their website at www.parentprojectmd.org or at 1-800-714-5437.